“A coalition of alcohol experts including doctors and researchers have accused federal, state and territory governments of failing to properly acknowledge the role of alcohol in family violence.
The Council of Australian Governments two-day summit on family violence will begin on today in Brisbane, prompting the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education to issue a statement of concern.”
Among the 21 signatories are family violence experts, emergency department doctors and alcohol researchers and the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation and former NACCHO CEO Donna Ah Chee.
” But it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people who experience such violence are women.
“The most prevalent effect is on mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.
“There are also serious physical health effects including injury, somatic disorders, chronic disorders and chronic pain, gastro-intestinal disorders, gynaecological problems, and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
As a community, we must stamp out violence against Australian women, and bring an end to all forms of family and domestic violence, whoever the victim.
“This will involve commitment and coordination from governments; support services; the related professions, especially medical, health, and legal; neighbourhoods; and families – backed by adequate funding.”
AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon see full press release below
“These policy interventions have the full support by frontline services and health professionals who have long been advocating for preventive action.
We know what works, and armed with that evidence we now need the political will to introduce evidence-based measures that look beyond headlines and election cycles and will be effective in saving lives and reducing the damage wrought by alcohol behind closed doors,”
General Practitioner and public health medical officer at the Central Australian Aboriginal Health Congress Dr John Boffa
“We fear that the forum today and the future discussions will continue to ignore alcohol’s role in family violence and fail to embrace strategies to address the issue,” the statement said.
Fare Statement of Concern
“We know from our research that the role of alcohol in family violence cannot be ignored. Alcohol contributes to between 23 to 65% of domestic incidents reported to police and between 15 to 47% of child abuse cases reported in Australia.
“More than a third of intimate-partner homicides involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator.”
The foundation’s chief executive, Michael Thorn, said he expected New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to be released in a few weeks’ time to show a significant and immediate drop in family violence as a direct result of the state’s lockout and last-drinks laws and tightened bottle-shop closing hours.
“There don’t seem to be any alcohol or mental health experts attending this domestic violence summit, even though we know from research their significant contribution to family violence,” Thorn said.
“We suspect the third national family violence plan will be launched at this summit and there has being very little engagement with alcohol experts about that plan. So we fear that there is unlikely to be anything of anything substance in that plan in relation to alcohol that can be done to address family violence.”
This included reforming the way alcohol is taxed, restricting the sale of alcohol to reduce its availability, and tackling the sexualisation of alcohol through advertising, he said.
Among the signatories to the statement were professor of social work at the University of Melbourne and domestic violence researcher, Cathy Humphreys, and the chief executive officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation, Donna Ah Chee.
The chief executive officer of Domestic Violence Victoria, Fiona McCormack, who was not a signatory to the statement, said she would be surprised if governments weren’t taking the role of alcohol in family violence seriously. “My experience of the federal government and in fact all governments is that they’re working from the current evidence,” McCormack said.
“It’s really important to consider the issue of alcohol and the impact it has and, in particular, the way it can exacerbate the impact of the violence. However, I’d be concerned if this was about closing down the argument to only focus on alcohol, because we need a plurality of expertise and strategies to address family violence.”
But a signatory to the statement, Assoc Prof David Caldicott, an emergency consultant at Calvary hospital in Canberra,said governments were not taking the role of alcohol “an an agent in harm” seriously.
“I completely understand the perspective of those who are concerned that focusing on alcohol takes away from the role of the responsibility of the perpetrator,” he said.
“Intoxication is never an excuse for violence. But I don’t think focusing on alcohol dilutes anything. You can debate whether alcohol is associated with or causes family violence, but there is no dispute that it is heavily associated with it.”
” The incidence of family violence in Indigenous communities is disproportionately higher than in non-Indigenous communities.
The particularly high rates of family violence experienced by Indigenous people stem from a number of interrelated factors, including cultural loss and disruption caused by colonisation and dispossession, the removal of Indigenous children from their families, inter-generational trauma and systemic disadvantage and discrimination.
Experiences of childhood abuse and neglect have resulted in entrenched generational trauma manifested in a variety of forms, including violence, lateral violence, alcohol and drug misuse and misuse of cultural authority.”
The COAG National Summit on Reducing Violence against Women will be held in Brisbane, Australia on 27 and 28 October 2016. The purpose of the Summit is for governments to review progress and profile best practice in our collective efforts to make Australia safer for women and their children.
The Summit will be held in Brisbane, co-hosted by the Premier of Queensland, the Hon Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, and the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP.
Delegates will include Commonwealth, State and Territory Premiers, Chief Ministers and Women’s Safety Ministers, the President of the Australian Local Government Association, academics and experts in domestic and family violence, and leaders in business and the not-for-profit sector.
The Summit will feature presentations about progress and best practice in each state and territory and across Australia. It will also feature roundtable discussion on key issues including:
The theme of the Summit is Connect. Act. Change, and delegates will be encouraged to consider how they can connect with each other, and take action to address violence against women and their children.
How can communities be supported to develop solutions to violence that will both ensure the safety of victims and change perpetrator behavior?
How can governments best support the resourcing and development of programs that alleviate, respond to and reduce the incidence of violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children?
Contribute to the online roundtable discussion about domestic violence in Indigenous communities
Please limit your submission to 300 words. You are also welcome to upload videos or sound recordings.
Your views may be presented to Summit participants in summary, in part or in full. They may also be used in any publication produced by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, or the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet following the Summit.
Some statistics on the prevalence of violence amongst Indigenous people include:
Indigenous people are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people, with 62% of Indigenous prisoners having committed violent offences.
Feedback from recent consultations on the Third Action Plan and from key Indigenous stakeholder groups has been clear that Indigenous women want the violence to stop.
They want to see intensive, trauma-informed services designed for families with complex needs and delivered in an appropriate cultural context. Delivery of services by Indigenous community controlled organisations is central to achieve this.
This roundtable will focus on how federal and state governments can best respond to and reduce the incidence of domestic and family violence in Indigenous communities. The discussion will also include strategies to develop solutions that both ensure the safety of victims, while also changing perpetrator behaviour.
This suggests the justice system has a limited capacity to respond to Indigenous victims and protect them from further harm as well as reduce the propensity of Indigenous perpetrators to engage in domestic violence.
It is also the case that the criminal justice response alone is insufficient and not culturally-informed to address the needs of Indigenous victims of family violence.
Victims often get the blame from family and the Aboriginal community for what happens to their partners, particularly if they go to prison. For many victims there is pressure from the husband’s family for the victim to withdraw the complaint and also the victim’s own family may seek to dissuade her.
A quantum shift is required to develop alternative approaches to responding to, and protecting, Indigenous women and their children from family violence. Researchers, Indigenous advocates and academics report that the needs of Indigenous people affected by family violence are not well met through general approaches and service models.
Wrap‑around, whole of family responses that protect women and their children and are also inclusive of men are required. An approach is required that acknowledges the impacts of past policies, is based on empowering individuals, communities and strengthening families, and where traditional approaches to healing and Indigenous perspectives are valued and respected.
Given the complex causes of violence in Indigenous communities, effective solutions will only be found through establishment of strong partnerships between Indigenous communities and organisations and governments.
Responses need to be intensive, place-based and targeted to individual drivers of violence, as well as recognise the intersectional dimension of violence against Indigenous women and acknowledge Indigenous peoples’ responsibilities to their families, communities and culture.